CBT should be offered before students enter post-secondary education

Smiling woman talking and gesturing in group therapy session

Ontario Shores at the DC UOIT Campus Health Centre launched a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) pilot program, offering therapy services to students free of charge in August 2017.

CBT is a type of psychotherapy focused on reframing negative thought patterns into positive ones.

It’s great that students at Durham College are able to learn CBT at no costs, but why is it that students have to wait to learn the benefits of CBT as young adults?

Cognitive behaviour therapy should be incorporated into elementary school curriculum because CBT teaches individuals how to implement the coping strategies needed to face adversity in their daily lives.

Tracy Holz, a registered nurse and registered psychotherapist working with the demo project, says CBT looks at the connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviours. The idea is to build awareness of this chain reaction and how it influences one’s decisions and motivations.

According to British Columbia online resource Anxiety Canada, cognitive behaviour therapy is an “evidence-based psychological treatment.” Research has confirmed the treatment is based on what proves to help patients, not what people think may work.

CBT teaches people how to function in life by learning how to correct distressing thoughts and improve self-talk in order to build more confidence and overcome difficulties.

The psycho-education model discussed in CBT helps clients to relate to emotions differently. In learning new, life skills, people are able to change how they interpret life stressors, says Holz.

Coping strategies learned in CBT also help clients improve self-regulation. CBT not only gives a client the opportunity to talk things out, but offers a chance to analyze automatic responses and discuss how to respond in a more proactive manner.

CBT is much like going to class.

Clients are given weekly homework, consisting of workbook readings and reflection exercises. There are self-evaluations during the process. The therapist also holds people accountable for their development, just as a teacher would.

Holz says the CBT pilot project at Durham College began due to a long-time need in the community.

“It simply wasn’t accessible to people.There was a high cost associated with it. So [the project started] from a number of people needing this service and it wasn’t available,” says Holz.

This high demand for the treatment demonstrates why it should be mainstreamed into the school system.

CBT can benefit children by developing their emotional intelligence. CBT can teach children to express how emotions feel in their body by drawing pictures, story-telling or role-play.

Emotions are viewed as a guidance system rather than something to avoid if unpleasant.

The earlier children learn how to cope with life stressors, the less likely they are to turn to negative coping mechanisms such as negative self-talk, behavioural disengagement and suicidal ideation as teens.

Preventative action is always much more effective than dealing with the damage afterwards. Students should not have to wait to learn the benefits of CBT as young adults. Arming children and teens with the proactive tools embedded in CBT will set them up to succeed.

For more information on the CBT pilot program at Durham College and UOIT, check out Chronicle reporter Jasper Myer’s article.